Turns out, we were all wrong. So let me be the first to apologize. My bad.
Made some phone calls last night, dialed up the other 31 defensive coordinators in the league and all of them told me that indeed, they do not game plan for Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Larry Fitzgerald. One told me, "Honestly, I've never heard of a couple of those guys. Are they kickers or something?"
Nope, they all said the double-teams, the ball-hawking safeties, the different looks and schemes, those are just reserved for Dez Bryant. That's it. Rest of the year, they just hope for the best, leave the Browns and Greens of the world chilling in single coverage.
I had some spare time after my 31 phone calls and started calling some of the defensive coaches from the 1980s and 1990s and same thing. They never, ever, ever drew up anything special for Jerry Rice. Yet, they agreed that staffs today go underground, into the bunker for weeks at a time to draw up special, top-secret plans for Dez. Must stop Dez.
Ok, ok, so I didn't call anyone, and yes, those previous few paragraphs were drenched in sarcasm. Couldn't help myself. I just don't understand and usually the ensuing emotion is frustration, which is where I'm currently residing.
Before continuing, I want to point something out. Dez needs to start making catches like a top-five wide receiver. He needs to win some of these jump balls, and needs to find a way to complete the process of the catch on his way down. His hands are ginormous and his strength is ridiculous for a wide receiver. This needs to start happening. Like every week.
[embeddedad0]All right, with that out of the way, the Cowboys have to find a way for Dez to be a big part of the offense each and every week. No more "the other team did a nice job with the safety and their coverages." It's not taking a leap of faith here to assume defenses are implementing those same game plans with every elite wideout and/or tight end in the NFL.
Dating back to 2014, Dez has six games with three or fewer catches for 30 or fewer yards. That list includes one for eight, one for nine, two for 12 and two for 15. Keep in mind that he also missed seven games last season or there could be more.
Green hasn't finished a game with three or fewer catches for 30 or fewer yards since 2014. The last time Jones didn't tally at least 30 receiving yards was in Week 2 of 2012. And Brown has one game with fewer than 30 yards since 2012. Heck, in his last eight regular-season starts, Brown has four multi-touchdown games. Am pretty sure those teams were trying to shut him down, too.
Here's my point: If an elite wide receiver is utilized the correct way, it doesn't matter what the defense is doing the majority of the time. And it shouldn't matter who is throwing him the football, either. In 2013, Josh Gordon led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards despite not playing two games. Tossing passes to him that season were Jason Campbell, who never started another NFL game at the conclusion of the year, old friend Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer. Not exactly the 49ers deciding between Joe Montana and Steve Young.
Look, I'm not a football coach. The Cowboys coaching staff knows infinity and beyond more than me about the game. It's their job, it's what they do all day and night, it's their lives during the season. I just refuse to accept that there are not other ways to put the ball in Dez's hands. Have him run 2 yards off the line and turn around. Know what? Have him run 2 yards behind the line and throw it to him. Have him run some of those Michael Irvin-patented crossing patterns. You think those defenses didn't know that was coming? He made a living off that same route.
Somehow, someway, put Dez in space. In those same spaces Jason Witten and Cole Beasley are finding. Those third and longs, throw it to Dez, even if it's a screen or quick pass and then let him run around. Seems more and more that the majority of his targets are jump balls. He needs to go up and make a play, which is fine here and there. There was a play in the Falcons game this past Sunday where Jones was running across the middle of the field and he was wide open. That never, ever, ever seems to be the case with Dez.
There has been some speculation that perhaps Bryant peaked in 2014, that he would never be that same talent, although he's just 27, which should be his athletic prime. But we have no idea if that's the case right now because he's not being given the opportunities.
Now, let me be clear here: I'm not saying to force the ball to him. I don't want Dak Prescott throwing into double coverage all afternoon at Washington. There are going to be times when throwing to Beasley and Witten are what's best for the offense. It's not a coincidence that of the 26 starting quarterbacks this past Sunday, Prescott ranked last at 5.04 yards per attempt.
I also don't want to hear about Tony Romo and how Dez will be Dez again when he returns. Romo is nine years older than Dez and hasn't exactly been Cal Ripken these last few years. At some point, like today and yesterday, the Cowboys have to figure out how to utilize their most gifted offensive talent when Romo isn't behind center.
Oh, one final point. Once Dez starts busting loose, I can guarantee that those running lanes will be a little bit wider for Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris. It all starts with Dez. And it needs to start Sunday afternoon.
Check out Jeff Sullivan's column each week in *Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. Find out more at DallasCowboys.com/star. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at email@example.com.*